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U.S. House Republicans preparing bill to keep government running

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans in the U.S. Congress, mindful of voter anger over past budget showdowns, are preparing legislation to keep the government open beyond Sept. 30 when existing funding expires.

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said a temporary spending bill, the kind conservatives have balked at in the past, likely will be debated in September.

Asked how long the stopgap measure would keep the government operating, Boehner said: "I imagine it would go to early December."

A series of individual appropriations bills are intended to fund federal agencies, ranging from the Defense Department to the Department of Health and Human Services, for fiscal years beginning on Oct. 1.

But Congress regularly fails to pass all of those bills in time. Without a so-called continuing resolution, or "CR," to keep federal agencies in business at current spending levels, many would have to shut down.

That is what happened last October, when Republicans refused to extend federal spending unless President Barack Obama's healthcare law, known as Obamacare, was either repealed or significantly changed.

Predictably, Democrats balked at the ploy and many government operations were closed for 16 days until Republicans relented.

Voter anger during last year's standoff is likely to prevent Republicans from following a similar script this year, especially with November's congressional elections so near.

If Congress passes a bill that funds agencies until sometime in December, lawmakers could attempt to pass a longer-term measure after the elections.

(Reporting By Richard Cowan; Editing by Tom Brown; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Tom Brown)

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